We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
There are activities for which stretching is important, and some for which it is not. In track and field, my area of familiarity, events like hurdling, high jump, discus and javelin can benefit from the kind of flexibility gains that can be created by stretching.
Straight up running, probably not so much.
Another Guy named Dan
Does stretching improve flexibility?
Probably not (unless you do it at a very young age). If you're an adult, it probably doesn't improve flexibility at all. Whether or not it retards the loss of flexibility with the aging process is another matter.
Does it help (as a "warm up) to prevent injury? Maybe, but other methods of warming up are better in this regard.
Much has been made of the studies showing that stretching before competition REDUCES one's ability to demonstrate strength...but that's applicable to very few people and in very few circumstances. IF (and that's a big "if") something reduces the chance of an injury while training, it's probably worth doing even if doing it before competition interferes with your strength.
Finally, given what the "experts" have told us about "the science" this past year and given the lack of reproducibility of most scientific studies, I'll opt to listen to successful athletes and their trainers when it comes to designing my training regimen.
There are studies, then there is personal experience.
At 35 I couldn’t touch my toes, and couldn’t lay on my stomach and grab my feet from behind. I watched my young daughter do the latter and couldnt do it with her so I became determined that I could.
Three years later I could touch my forehead to my knees and comfortably grab the bottom of my feet. I could lie on my stomach, grab my feet from behind and arch fully, with only my stomach touching the ground.
So how did this happen? I stretched and did yoga several times a week.
I let a lot of that go, so post COVID I decided to get back in shape. First thing I did was start stretching. Had difficulty doing the back arch, but little by little it’s coming back. Toe touching was okay at restart, but head on knees was far the first day, a little better the next week and almost back again now.
Did I read the studies? Yes. Do I believe them? No.
I'm a professional statistician.
Ranking in reverse order of quality of statistics:
#3 Climate Science
#4 Sports Science
Never, ever, ever believe a sports science study without grilling the underlying stats and assumptions. If you're not highly competent in stat just assume it's wrong.
Anecdotally, I couldn't squat with my heels on the ground (not even close).
At age 50 I decided to correct this. 2 months of stretching fixed it. 12 years later I can still squat (heels to floor) with backs of thighs touching calves.
In what way is that not improved flexibility (it's also quite useful)?
I can't claim it improves "fitness," esp. if that means cardio-pulmonary efficiency, or that it prolongs life, but who cares? A hundred times a day it's obvious that being more flexible allows a freer range of motion. Why would I need any other reason?